Then You Look At Me by Ankaree

Then You Look At Me - Ankaree

Day by day I find my way
Look for the soul and the meaning
Then you look at me
And I always see
What I have been searching for
I'm lost as can be
Then you look at me
And I am not lost anymore

~~Then You Look At Me by Celine Dion~~

Blair Sandburg sat in the interrogation room, handcuffed wrists resting on the table in front of him. His fingers tapped nervously on the tabletop as his eyes followed the big detective who paced back and forth in front of him. On his next walk by, the police officer stopped, placed both hands on the table and leaned forward in an intimidating manner, giving Blair a piercing look. A slight shiver flowed through him when his eyes made contact with the intense sky-blue ones. Although he was a little scared, having been arrested for something he had no part in, it wasn't fear that made him shiver, but the attraction he felt for this detective.

He knew it was crazy, he had never believed in "love at first sight" but, crazy or not, the moment that Blair had laid eyes on the man, he felt a pull -- a connection. Nothing like this had ever happened to him before. He had never felt drawn to someone so instantaneously -- hell, he had never been attracted to another man before. Sure, he admired a well-muscled body or a good-looking, rugged face, but that was as far as it went. The urge to kiss and touch and taste a man had never happened before -- until now.

"You with me, Sandburg?" The detective's deep silky voice speaking right next to his ear caused Blair to jump slightly in his seat. He closed his eyes and swallowed hard at the feel of the man's warm breath caressing the side of his neck.

Before he replied, Blair took a deep calming breath, brought his cuffed hands up and ran his fingers through his hair. "Yeah, I'm with you."

"Good." The detective moved around to the opposite side of the table and sat in a chair, facing Blair. "Now, let's go over this one more time."

Blair sighed inwardly and resisted the urge to roll his eyes. It felt like they had been at this Q&A for hours. And each time the questions directed at him changed slightly as though the detective was trying to catch Blair in a lie. "Look, Detective Ellison, no matter how many times we go over this, my answer is still the same. I had no idea there was a drug lab in the warehouse next door to mine."

"You lived there for," Ellison briefly glanced down at an open folder on the table, "two years and never once saw or heard anything?"

"That's right. Well, other than the rats - I hate rats," Blair muttered, giving a little shiver. "Like I already told you, I didn't know anyone was next door."

With a tilt of his head, the detective glared at Blair, staring directly into his eyes. "I find that hard to believe."

Trying not to feel intimidated, Blair glared back. "It's the truth."

"You know, you'd make things a lot easier on yourself if you just told me the name of the main guy in charge of the operation." Ellison stood up and walked around to stand by Blair's side. Bending forward, he rested one hand on the table and the other on the back of Blair's chair. With his face only inches from Blair's, the detective spoke in a hushed yet commanding voice, "Give me his name and I'll be sure you get dealt a lighter sentence. Why take the fall for this guy?"

"I told you I don't know anything," Blair insisted, his leg beginning to bounce nervously.

When he was first brought in for questioning, he didn't think he had anything to worry about. After all, he was innocent. He honestly didn't know anything about a drug lab setting up shop in the warehouse space next to his. But now he was beginning to worry. If the police did think he played a part in this, how in the hell could he prove that he was not guilty? He had heard of many cases where truly innocent men had gone to prison and the stories told of their time spent behind bars had been horrible.

The silky voice was back in Blair's ear again and he swallowed hard, trying to ignore the tingling sensation coursing through his body as he listened. "Do you want to go to prison for a very long time? Because that's what you'll get for selling drugs. But if you tell me who the main man is, I'll make sure you get a deal of two to five years instead."

"But I don't know anything!" Blair yelled. He jumped up from his seat, only to have a large hand clamp onto his shoulder and roughly push him back down again.

"But I think you do," Ellison prodded.

"I don't." Blair turned in his seat to face the detective, not caring if the man could see the fear reflected in his features. "I told you I was home alone. Well, except for Larry-"

"The monkey-"

"No." Blair shook his head.

"No?" The detective's eyebrows rose in an inquisitive arch.

"He's not a monkey, he's an ape. A Barbary ape to be exact. They can be found in the mountains and wilds of Algeria and Morocco, especially in the forests of the Atlas Mountains. They were introduced to Gibraltar, where legend has it that…" Blair trailed off when he noticed Ellison sigh heavily and glance up at the ceiling as though seeking some kind of patience. When the man looked back at him again, Blair could have sworn he saw a look of amusement flash across the detective's features. "Sorry, I-"

Ellison held up a hand and shook his head before sitting down once again. "Just continue, but this time leave out the ape facts, okay?"

"How many more times are we going to go over this?" Blair asked, a hint of irritation tingeing his voice.

Ellison sat back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest, eyes never leaving Blair's face. "As many times as it takes."

"But I've already told you what happened, like, ten times."

"Humor me. Tell me one more time."

"Fine." Blair sighed. "I was at home watching TV with Larry when there was this loud noise. I wasn't sure what it was, so I got up intending to check it out when the inside wall to my warehouse blew in. It knocked me to the ground and by the time I stood back up, flames were coming in through the hole. I had just enough time to grab Larry and rush outside before there was another explosion. I hurried to a payphone around the corner and called 911. The fire trucks arrived a few minutes later, then the police showed up. You know the rest."

"Was there anyone around when you got outside?"

"I told you already." When Ellison simply glared at him, Blair continued, "I saw a couple of guys running toward a truck. It was a black Lincoln Navigator, I think."

"Didn't that strike you as odd? Since you said no one lived in the area."

"Not at the time, no. And I never said that no one lived in the area. I said that I didn't know that anyone else lived next door."

He could see the detective gearing up for another question when there was a sudden knock on the door. A large black man stepped inside the room, stared at Blair for a second before whispering something to Ellison that Blair couldn't hear.

"Are you sure, Captain?" Ellison asked.

With a nod, the police captain replied, "Positive."

A look of confusion wrinkled Blair's forehead as the detective stood, walked over to him, and unlocked the cuffs. Once again he felt a little tingle of excitement rush through his body when the detective's fingers touched his hands.

"What's going on?" Blair asked, rubbing at his wrists and glancing from one man to the other.

"You're free to go," Ellison stated, placing the handcuffs in his back pocket.

"What?"

The detective hitched his thumb toward the door. "You're free to go, Chief."

"Just like that?"

"Yes."

"Uh… Okay. Thanks - I guess." Standing up, Blair took one last, lingering look at the handsome detective before quickly leaving the room. He was a little confused as to why they suddenly let him go, but he wasn't about to hang around to find out. He needed to get back to the warehouse to see if any of his belongings survived the fire and most importantly, he had to find out where Larry had been taken after he had to relinquish the little animal when he'd been arrested.

***

Fighting off the urge to scream at the woman on the other end of the phone, Blair bit his bottom lip and took a deep steadying breath before calmly saying, "Yes, I realize that in order for you to release Larry, I need a Permit Of Ownership. But, as I already told the person that I talked to yesterday, I did have one, but it was lost in a fire." He listened to the reply, and wondered, for about the hundredth time, why so many idiots seemed to be employed at the Animal Control Center.

With his agitation rising, Blair could no longer sit still, so he got up out of his chair to pace his small office. "What am I supposed to do now?" Blair asked, his voice growing louder in frustration and worry. After listening to the women tell him that he'd have to reapply for ownership, Blair took out some of his frustration by slamming the phone down and flopping into his chair. "Damn it," he muttered and dropped his head into his hands. He'd been trying for three days now to get Larry back, but Animal Control wouldn't budge. He needed his copy of the permit, but everything he owned had been destroyed by the fire. The original form he had filled out two years ago when he'd rescued Larry from a research lab, had been misplaced or misfiled, he'd been told, so now he'd have to go through all the steps once again in order for him to recover his pet.

A quiet knock at his door made Blair look up, his eyes widening in surprised delight at the sight of Detective Ellison leaning casually against the doorframe. He honestly didn't think he'd ever see the detective again. No matter how hard Blair had tried to forget him, the man was constantly on his mind, making it difficult for him to concentrate on his daily routine. To make matters worse, Ellison had continued to play the starring role in his erotic dreams over the past two nights. Seeing the real thing now standing before him, Blair felt his cock twitch in excitement and he couldn't stop his eyes from roaming over the well-muscled body - memorizing it.

Taking a calming breath, Blair stood up and cleared his throat. "Detective Ellison, what are you doing here? You didn't come to arrest me again, did you?"

With a little smirk, Ellison shook his head. "No. I actually came to apologize."

"Apologize? For what?"

"I know I was a bit rough on you the other day at the station."

"Oh, hey, don't worry about that. I understand that you were just doing your job."

"Well, I hope this will make up for any hard feelings." The detective stepped into the hallway, moving out of sight for a second before returning with a small plastic animal travel crate.

"Larry!" Blair shouted excitedly, running around his desk to where Ellison stood inside the doorway.

The second the little ape heard Blair's voice, it began to screech and bounce around inside the cage. The detective held the crate out in front of him with both hands while Blair hurriedly opened the wire door. As soon as the lock was unlatched, Larry launched himself at Blair, landing in his arms. Laughing, Blair held him to his chest, gently stroking the soft fur. "Hey, buddy, it's okay," he crooned softly, trying to soothe his frightened pet. Once the animal settled down, Blair looked up at Ellison with a questioning look.

Seeming to understand what Blair was about to ask, the detective answered, "At the warehouse I saw animal control take him away. I asked a friend who works there what happened to him and he explained that there was some mix-up with the legal paper work. I pulled some strings and got the monk… sorry… ape," he grinned, "released to me."

"Thank you so much, Detective." Blair held out a hand and reveled at the feel of the other man's warm hand as it gripped his own. "You don't know how much this means to me. How can I ever repay you?"

"Well… I can think of two things." Ellison smiled, giving Blair's hand a gentle squeeze before releasing it. "First, please call me Jim, and second, have lunch with me today. My treat."

"Okay, Jim." Blair smiled brightly. "Lunch would be great. Oh, do you mind if we ate outside in the quad? I teach a class in forty-five minutes, so I don't want to go too far and I really don't want to leave Larry alone just yet. Sam's Deli is right across the street. They make great sandwiches."

"That's fine with me, Chief."

"Great. Let's go then." Shifting Larry up onto his shoulder, Blair grabbed his keys, closing and locking his office door. All the while Blair led Jim down the hallway, he was totally aware of the tall detective walking closely behind him. His body tingled at the man's nearness and his heart skipped a beat when, suddenly, a large hand came to rest lightly on the middle of his back.

"We caught the guys that were involved in the drug ring," Jim said.

"That's great, man."

"A lot of it had to do with you seeing that Navigator. We were able to track it down and find the perps. When they were brought in for questioning, they rolled over on the main guy."

"Guess that means I'm no longer a suspect." Blair grinned up at Jim.

"You're free and clear, Chief." Jim chuckled, lightly patting Blair on the shoulder.

Once they were out in the sunshine, Blair turned to face Jim. "The deli is right across the street," he said, pointing toward a small brick building. "If you don't mind, I'll wait over there." Blair motioned to a quiet grassy spot nestled near some cedar bushes and well away from the busy bustle of students.

"That's fine," Jim agreed. "What can I get you?"

"Turkey on whole wheat with mustard, tomato and sprouts. Oh, and ask the person behind the counter for some fruit. They love Larry and always give me a container of it. Just mention my name and tell them it's for him."

"Sure thing." With a little salute and a smile, Jim turned and hurried away.

Blair watched him go, admiring the lean body as it fluidly moved across the parking lot and out of sight. "He's amazing, isn't he?" Blair whispered, reaching up to scratch Larry on the head. "Man, I could really fall hard for him."

He wondered for the hundredth time if Jim was gay or straight. He knew there was some kind of connection happening between them. He felt it every time he looked into the detective's eyes and he was pretty sure that Jim felt something also. But the million-dollar question was what was Jim feeling? Was it only a friendship connection or could the detective possibly feel something more toward him?

"This is crazy," he whispered to Larry. "How can I feel something so strong for someone I don't even know? But every time he looks at me, I feel connected to him. Like we belong together." Blair let out a frustrated sigh and ran a free hand through his curls. "Okay, Sandburg, enough thinking. Just relax and enjoy whatever amount of time he wants to spend with you."

Making his way over to the secluded area, Blair sat down, stretching his legs out in front of him. Closing his eyes, he tilted his face up into the warmth of the sun. A few seconds later, he felt Larry clamber down his side to snuggle against his thigh. He grinned happily to himself. It felt good to be alive. He was homeless and had lost everything he owned in the warehouse fire, but he did have two things that meant more to him than anything else: he had Larry back and a budding friendship with one Detective James Ellison. He couldn't ask for more than that.

A shadow suddenly fell across his face and Blair sensed the presence of another person. Thinking it was Jim returning, he kept his eyes closed while he said, "That didn't take very long. Must have been a short line today." Abruptly, his world shifted as he was grabbed by the front of his shirt and hauled upright. He eyes flew open at the same time that Larry's screech filled the quiet surroundings.

"Let go of me!" Blair angrily demanded, recognizing the young man in front of him as one of his students, Jacob Evans, who just happened to be the captain of Rainier's football team. It wasn't the first time that Blair had trouble with this particular student. Evans never made an effort to do well in class and Blair knew that, on more than one occasion, he had bullied teachers into giving him passing grades so that he could remain on the football team. In fact, several times during this current semester, Evans had tried his forceful tactics on Blair, making it very clear that he expected to pass Blair's Anthro 101 class in spite of his poor grades. Just yesterday, Evans had taken the mid-term anthro exam, and had, of course, failed miserably.

"I thought I told you to give me a passing mark, Teach," Evans hissed menacingly and shook Blair roughly. "Now because of you, I'm going to be kicked off the team."

"Hey, man, you should have thought about that earlier and studied for the exam." Blair pushed against the strong, muscular chest, trying to get out of the man's vise-like grip, but the effort was made in vain. "If you don't let go of me right now, I'll have you expelled for assaulting a teacher!"

"You do that and you'd better watch your back." Evans glared evilly at him.

"Is that a threat?"

"Take it any way you want to… Teach," he spat out maliciously. "For now, how about I give you a little something just so you don't forget."

At that second, Blair knew he was going to be punched and that it would probably hurt like hell. As the student's arm pulled back, Blair moved his own arms up to shield his face, preparing for the blow, but it never came. He felt the hand that was gripping his shirt being jerked away and then there was the sound of a loud grunt. Dropping his arms, he was shocked to see Jim holding Evans face down on the grass. The detective had one knee pressed in the student's lower back while he bent Evans' arm firmly up against his shoulder blades

"Get the hell off of me!" Evans yelled.

Digging around in his pocket, Jim pulled out his police ID, holding it in front of Evans' face. "If you touch Mr. Sandburg again, you'll have to answer to me. Understand?" When the student didn't answer, Ellison pushed a little harder on Evans' arm, making him grunt in pain. "Understand?" Jim said a little more forcefully.

"Yes," Evans angrily answered.

"Good. Now get the hell out of here." Jim released the student, watching him intently as he got up and quickly walked away.

"Thanks, man," Blair said quietly, feeling a little embarrassed at having Jim come to his rescue.

"You okay, Chief?" Jim asked with concern, lightly touching Blair on the arm.

"Yeah, fine."

"What was that all about?"

"He's a student I failed and he's pissed because he's now off the football team. I tried to help him with his studies. Even offered to tutor him, but he didn't want anything to do with it."

"The way I see it, you did your best. Offered to help. It's not your fault he failed." Jim patted Blair's shoulder before giving it a soft squeeze. "If he causes you any more trouble, let me know."

"I can handle it, Jim."

"I didn't say you couldn't, but I'm here if you need me."

"Okay." Blair smiled. "Thanks, man."

"No problem," Jim replied then went to retrieve their bag of food he'd placed on the ground. "Do you still have enough time to sit and eat?"

After checking his watch, Blair nodded. "Yeah, I've got about thirty minutes. Oh, Shit! Larry!" Blair turned quickly and headed toward the large cedar hedge. "Larry? Where are you, buddy?" A little furry face peeked out from the greenery and Blair sighed with relief. "Come on. It's okay now." Larry seemed reluctant to leave the safety of the brush, so Blair held out his hand and said in a persuasive voice, "I bet Jim's got some nice yummy fruit for you in that bag." Looking back over his shoulder, he laughed when he saw Jim holding up an open container of fruit. Larry gave a delighted little squeak and in one fluid motion, leapt from the hedge onto Blair's shoulder then over to Jim's arm.

Jim chuckled as the ape scrambled up his arm and sat on his shoulder. "Hey, little guy," Jim greeted quietly. Reaching into the container, he held up a small piece of melon for Larry to take. Very gently the ape plucked it from Jim's fingers and began to happily munch on the sweet fruit.

Blair watched Jim closely, admiring the muscular body as he gracefully dropped into a sitting position on the ground and began to rummage in the food bag. When Jim looked up at him, a questioning look on his face, Blair grinned and sat down beside him. "Larry's not bothering you, is he?" he asked, taking the sandwich that Jim handed to him.

"Naw, he's fine."

"It's funny. He doesn't usually take to strangers so quickly."

At that moment, Larry scurried down Jim's arm to tap on the fruit container before climbing back up to his perch on the detective's shoulder. "Demanding little guy, isn't he?" Jim laughed and handed Larry more fruit.

"You do realize you've got a friend for life." Blair grinned.

"I'm honored," Jim replied with a chuckle. Reaching up, he gently scratched the little ape on the side of his head. "He reminds me of the little monkeys that lived in the Peruvian jungle when I was there." Jim took a bite of his sandwich and made a small noise of pleasure. "You're right, these are very good," he said, waggling his sandwich before taking another bite. Larry made a tiny squeak and Jim reached into the container, this time passing the ape a chunk of banana.

"I told you they were great." Blair smiled.

Pulling two bottles of water from the bag, Jim handed one to Blair. "You didn't mention what you wanted to drink, so I hope water's okay."

"Water's good." He took a quick sip before asking, "When were you in Peru?"

"About five years ago. I was in the Army and my chopper got shot down over the jungle." Jim paused then quietly said, "All of the men in my unit died."

Blair could hear the sorrow in Jim's voice. In what he hoped was a sympathetic gesture, he reached over and lightly squeezed Jim's arm. "Hey, man, I’m sorry." Their eyes met and locked. Blair tried not to squirm under Jim's intense gaze and he swore he could feel the heat sizzle between them. As quickly as the feeling came, it was snatched away when Jim blinked and lowered his eyes.

They ate in silence for a few minutes, each lost in their own thoughts. While Blair finished his sandwich, he watched a couple of students cavorting out on the wide green lawn, tossing a Frisbee back and forth. Returning his attention back to their conversation, he asked, "How long were you in the Army?" When Jim failed to respond to his inquiry, Blair cast a quick glance at his new friend. That's when he discovered that the detective was staring across the quad with a blank look on his face.

"Jim?" Blair called, shifting to kneel in front of him. He turned his head, once again looking toward the students as they played with the Frisbee. Jim's eyes seemed to be locked in their direction. With a frown Blair gazed at Jim, then back again to the students, where the red disc soared through the air. Placing both hands on Jim's shoulders, he gently shook him while saying, "Jim? What's wrong? Can you hear me? Jim?" Seeming to sense the worry in Blair's voice, Larry hopped onto his shoulder, tilting his head in curiosity for a second before he began to chatter at their silent friend.

Sitting back on his heels, Blair's eyes locked on Jim's face, studying him attentively. The blank expression… The shallow breathing… Could it be some sort of - sensory overload? One of the men tossing the Frisbee called out to his companion before throwing the toy yet again. Blair's eyes watched the red circle spin through the air. The light caught the plastic disc and the color dragged his eyes along its trajectory. If it captured his attention that easily, he wondered if Jim saw - even more. "Jim, man, are you - zoned? How is that possible?"

Blair considered Jim carefully. He knew about Sentinels, and he also knew that finding a man or woman with five hyperactive senses was next to impossible. Or so he thought - until now. Excited now, Blair sat up, took one of Jim's hands and pressed it against his chest, directly over his heart. He kept the hand in place by covering Jim's hand with his own. With his other hand still resting on Jim's shoulder, he said softly, "Okay, Detective, in order for me to get you back from your little journey to La-La-Land, I need you to concentrate on my voice. Feel my hand on your shoulder and the beat of my heart under your fingers."

Blair's eyes searched Jim's face for signs of recognition. Seeing the muscles in Jim's face start to twitch and his brow wrinkle, Blair continued encouragingly, "That's it! Come on, Jim. It's time to come back to the 'here and now'. I know you can do it." He waited in anticipation until Jim finally sucked in a deep breath before huffing it out. "Good job, Jim!"

The detective blinked a few times then, using the tips of his fingers, rubbed at his eyes. When his gaze finally focused on Blair, for a brief moment, Blair saw the confusion, the fear and a touch of vulnerability in the strong face before they quickly vanished.

Scrubbing at his face with his hands, Jim muttered angrily, "It happened again, damn it."

"So this has happened to you before?" Blair asked, stroking Jim's arm soothingly.

Dropping his hands into his lap, Jim sighed heavily and nodded.

"Jim, look at me." It took a few seconds, but Jim's eyes finally met Blair's. "Tell me exactly what just happened?" He felt Jim's body stiffen at the same time that the handsome face hardened and his eyes fill with doubt. "It's okay. You can trust me," Blair quickly reassured.

"Can I?" The doubt that had been in Jim's eyes only seconds ago now touched his voice.

"Yes," Blair replied emphatically not breaking eye contact.

He was once again the recipient of that intense stare until the sky-blue eyes softened and Jim nodded slightly. "I was eating my sandwich when a motion caught my attention. I looked up and saw two guys playing Frisbee. I watched as it glided back and forth and then I just sort of got - lost in the motion. Everything became a blur. Next thing I know, I was hearing your voice and feeling…" He paused and glanced away.

Understanding how hard it was for Jim to express his feelings, but needing more information to substantiate his observations, Blair gently prodded, "Feeling what, Jim?"

Jim shook his head. "This is going to sound crazy. You won't believe it."

"Try me." Blair smiled and gave an encouraging nod.

"I felt your - heartbeat."

"My God, this isn't possible," Blair whispered to himself with a shake of his head.

"See!" Jim accused. "I told you you'd think I was crazy."

When Jim attempted to rise, Blair quickly grabbed his arm, stopping his motion. "No. No, Jim, I don't think you're crazy." He smiled warmly. "In fact, I know exactly what's going on with you."

"How could you possibly know? I've been to all kinds of doctors. Been through all kinds of tests and they couldn't find anything wrong."

"That's because they were looking for something medical when there's nothing medically wrong with you. Let me ask you something. I've already witnessed sight, touch and hearing. Besides those, are you also having problems with taste and smell?"

"How?" Jim asked in disbelief. "How do you know that?"

"Because I've been studying people like you for five years now. Well, actually, it's only been people with one or two hyperactive senses. But five years ago, I went to Brazil to study the Yanomamo Indians. One of the tribesmen was just like you. He had all five senses heightened. He was called a Centinela. Translated that's Sentinel."

"He was like some kind of a guardian?" Jim asked.

"Yes, exactly." Blair nodded enthusiastically. "Using his abilities, he'd watch for movement of game, changes in the weather, approaching enemies. Tribal survival depended on it. He also had a companion. They called him Guia. He helped guide the Sentinel, watched his back when he was doing his deal and made sure his Sentinel didn't zone out."

"Zone out?"

"That's what just happened to you. It's when you focus on one sense to the exclusion of the others and sort of become oblivious to your surroundings. That's why it's important for every Sentinel to have a Guide. If a Sentinel does zone, then the Guide is there to watch over him, keep him safe and pull him out of it."

"Like what you just did to me," Jim stated.

Blair nodded. "I spent a year with the Yanomamo and during most of my time there, I was with the Sentinel and Guide. They taught me a lot. Sort of trained me on how to be a Guide. It's funny…" Blair paused, unsure if he should reveal what he had been told by the tribe's shaman about himself to Jim so soon.

"Go on." Jim gave Blair a comforting smile.

Seeing the interest and sincerity in Jim's face, Blair nodded and said, "The shaman of the tribe used to tell me that I was destined to guide a Sentinel. I never really believed that I'd actually find one in modern society. Once I got home from Brazil, I began searching, but pretty much gave up any hope in finding a Sentinel after discovering people with only one or two heightened senses." Blair's intense gaze held Jim's. "I can't believe that after all this time I've finally found one," he said with awe then added softly, "I can't believe it."

"Do you really believe that I'm one of these - Sentinels?"

"Yes, I do."

Jim looked at Blair with hope in his eyes and a warm smile. "Does that mean you’re my Guide?"

Returning the smile, Blair replied, "Yeah, I think that I am. I definitely feel a connection with you."

"Thank God, Chief!" Jim dropped his head and sighed in relief. "I really thought there was something horribly wrong with me. Like a brain tumor the doctors couldn't find. Or that I was having some kind of mental breakdown. You know, like maybe stress from the job. I had no clue, until now."

Blair reached over and placed a hand on Jim's knee. "I can assure you, you are not going crazy. With my help and with a little practice, you'll be able to control your senses."

"Thanks." Jim covered Blair's hand with his own. "I'd appreciate any help you can give me."

"I've got classes this afternoon and a study session this evening, but if you come by my office at, say, twelve-thirty tomorrow afternoon, I can teach you some control techniques."

"That would be great."

"Man, I wish I didn't have to head to class." Blair practically vibrated with excitement. "I'd love to stay and talk with you some more about all this."

"That's okay. I need to get going anyway." Jim stood and held out a hand toward Blair. When Blair slipped his hand into Jim's, the detective pulled him to his feet but didn't let go. "I feel a connection with you, too, Blair. From the first time I met you, I knew there was something… I don't know how to explain it. I just felt something. That's one of the reasons why I kept you so long in the interrogation room. For the first time in a long time, I felt good. My senses felt right and I figured it had something to do with you."

"Is that why you came to see me today? To be sure?"

"Well, that, and a couple of other reasons." Jim smiled softly and Blair felt his heart skip a beat as Jim leaned forward slightly. For a second he thought that the detective was going to kiss him, but instead, the man stopped, gently squeezed his hand and said teasingly, "I'd better get going."

"Oh, uh - yeah - okay." Blair stumbled over his words, feeling perplexed by Jim's closeness and teasing manner. He swallowed hard and, because he wanted nothing more than to wrap his arms around the detective's neck and pull him down for a kiss, he took a step back to distance himself from the temptation. Jim chuckled, patted him gently on the cheek then bent down to gather up their garbage. He gave Blair the container of the remaining fruit before dumping everything else into a nearby trashcan.

"Here's my business card." Pulling his wallet from his pocket, Jim handed Blair the card.

"Thanks, man," he replied, tucking the card into the front pocket of his shirt.

"I'll see you tomorrow then."

"You bet." Blair grinned.

"Bye, Larry." Jim gave the ape a pat on the head before he started to walk away.

"Oh, Jim," Blair called, waiting until the detective turned around to face him before he added, "Be sure not to concentrate too much on one thing. I wouldn't want you zoning out. And if you need anything, you know where to find me."

"Thanks, Chief." Jim waved then strolled across the quad toward his truck.

Blair watched him for a second, a huge smile plastered across his face, before turning in the opposite direction and rushing inside the anthro building.

***

Over the next week, during each lunch hour, Blair helped Jim with his senses. He guided him through different types of tests and even though Jim did complain or grumble on occasion, the detective still complied with all of Blair's suggestions. A few times Jim did zone out, but Blair was always there to talk him through it. Jim was gaining more and more control of his senses with each passing day, and Blair could see the confidence building each time he used them.

During today's lunch break, Blair had taken Jim down to the waterfront where he ran his Sentinel through one last test. While they stood shoulder to shoulder at the edge of the pier looking out over the dark ocean, Blair lightly rested his hand in the center of Jim's back.

"Okay, Jim, I want you to look out over the water and focus your sight as far as you can. And without zoning," he added with a smile.

Jim nodded, looked toward the ocean but after a few moments, blinked and shook his head. "I can't."

"Sure you can," Blair said encouragingly.

"Chief, there's nothing for me to focus on. As soon as I let myself concentrate, I can feel myself starting to zone."

"That's the whole point of this test, Jim. There might not always be an object around to focus on, so you need to learn to use one sense to keep you grounded while you focus on another. Now, try again."

Jim complied, but again, after only a few seconds, he was shaking his head. "I can't do this," he groused.

Moving around to stand directly in front of Jim, Blair placed both his hands on Jim's arms and gave him a little shake. "You can do it." He smiled encouragingly. "I know it's been frustrating as hell for you at times, but look how far you've come in such a short amount of time. I am so damn proud of you, man. You're amazing."

Jim's hand reached up to cup Blair's face, his thumb lightly rubbing along Blair's cheek. "You're the one who's amazing, Chief," he replied softly.

Blair stood perfectly still, trying to calm his racing heart. Jim had been doing this to him all week. Small intimate touches, warm gazes, soft little smiles. He was pretty sure now that Jim was attracted to him, but Blair was afraid to be the one to make the first move. Their friendship had blossomed over the past week and Jim had started to trust Blair. That was one of the first things that he had realized about the detective. The man did not trust easily and Blair didn't want to risk doing anything to interfere with their growing bond. He'd wait for Jim to make the first move even though the waiting was driving him crazy. Just when Blair thought he was finally making that move, Jim's thumb stroked across his cheek one more time before, much to Blair's disappointment, his hand dropped away.

"Okay, I'll try it again," Jim said.

"Cool." Blair covered up his disappointment with a grin. "Don't forget to use your other senses," he admonished with a light poke to Jim's chest before he returned to stand by his Sentinel's side. "And don't worry about zoning. I'm right here to pull you out. I wouldn't let anything happen to you."

Jim looked down at Blair and gave him a tender smile. Their eyes locked and held briefly before Jim looked away to gaze out at the ocean. Blair watched him closely, keeping an eye out for any signs of zoning. Minutes went by before he started to become concerned. He was just about to call Jim's name when a smile suddenly broke out across the detective's face.

"It worked," Jim said with awe.

"That's great, man. Good Job!" Blair gently slapped Jim on the back. "What other sense did you use to keep yourself focused?"

"I -- um -- I tuned my hearing to your heartbeat. As long as I could hear it, I was able to stop myself from slipping away."

A pleased smile spread across Blair's face. There was something about knowing that Jim used him to keep himself grounded that made Blair feel all warm and fuzzy inside. "I think that's enough for today. We'll try it again on Monday. Okay?"

"Fine with me, Chief." Jim slipped an arm over Blair's shoulder as they walked down the pier toward their vehicles. Once they were standing next to Blair's car, Jim asked, "Do you have any plans for tomorrow night?"

"I need to work on my dissertation in the afternoon, but after that I'm free."

"Would you have dinner with me?"

Blair bit down on his excitement and answered as calmly as he could. "Sure, Jim. I'd really like that."

"Okay." Jim nodded with a smile. "How's six o'clock?"

"Sounds great," Blair replied, taking his keys out of his pocket. "Hang on a sec." He unlocked and opened his car door. Grabbing his backpack, he dug out a pen and paper. "My address," he noted, handing the paper to Jim.

"Thanks." Jim pocketed the paper, a pleased expression on his face. "I'll pick you up at six." He turned to leave but then moved back to whisper huskily into Blair's ear, "Wear your hair loose for me." Blair's heart jumped and his breathing quickened but before he could respond, Jim was sauntering away. "See you tomorrow, Chief," he called over his shoulder, waving his hand.

Still speechless, Blair slid into his car and closed the door. As he watched Jim's truck pull away from the curb, a smile slowly spread across his face until it was a full grin. "Yes!" he yelled happily and pumped his arm in the air. "Yes! Yes! Yes!" Laughing, he bounced in his seat and drummed his fingers on his steering wheel. Starting up his car, Blair drove back to the university humming along to the love song that played on the radio.

***

Blair anxiously paced back and forth in his small rundown motel room until he came to a stop in front of the cracked mirror and once again glanced at himself. He hoped that the clothing that he had bought earlier in the day wasn't too dressy or too casual. He had picked a comfortable pair of black dress pants and a silky, cobalt blue shirt that clung to his skin. At the last minute, he had decided to splurge his remaining money on a black leather jacket to top off his attire. He wore his hair loose, just as Jim had asked, the soft tendrils brushing against his shoulders. A shiver of excitement ran up Blair's spine as he remembered the huskiness in Jim's voice when he had whispered his request into Blair's ear. He was just about to glance at his watch again for the tenth time in the last two minutes when there was a knock on his door.

"He's finally here," Blair whispered with a smile and quickly walked over to Larry's cage. "I'll be gone for a little while. I'll make sure the front door is locked, so I hope you'll be safe." He opened the cage door, gave a reassuring pat to Larry's head before closing it and heading toward the door. Pulling it open, he was instantly stunned into speechlessness at the sight before him. A thrill ran through Blair as his eyes raked over Jim's body. Dressed entirely in black, the man had never looked more gorgeous - or more dangerous. "You - uh- you look incredible."

"So do you," Jim said, his voice deep and husky. Blair swallowed hard at the predatory look in his eyes. It immediately reminded him of a black panther stalking its prey. "You ready to go?"

"Yep, all set." Jim moved aside as Blair stepped outside and locked the door.

"You know," Jim said while they walked toward his truck, "this isn't the safest neighborhood to live in."

"I know," Blair replied. "But the motel room is cheap and right now, it's all I can afford until I find an apartment that is low rental. I'm hoping that something comes up soon. In the last two days, four rooms have been broken into." He glanced anxiously back at his motel room door, praying that Larry would be safe while he was gone. Because the area was not safe, he always took Larry to his office at the University during the day where he could keep an eye on him.

When Jim opened the truck's door, Blair slid into the cab. It wasn't until there was a light touch to his thigh that he realized that Jim was sitting behind the wheel, looking at him with concern in his eyes.

"You okay?" Jim asked.

Blair turned to him and gave a tentative smile. "Yeah, man, I'm fine."

"Chief, it's me you're talking to here. Top detective and budding Sentinel. Remember?" Jim said with a grin and a squeeze to Blair's leg. "What's up?"

"It's nothing, really. You'd probably think it's stupid."

"Blair, nothing you could possibly do or say would ever make me think you're stupid."

Blair met Jim's eyes and saw nothing but sincerity shining back at him. "Thanks," he replied softly. "I guess I'm just a little nervous about leaving Larry here." He frowned slightly when Jim, without a word, got out of the truck and walked around to his side of the vehicle. Blair's face dropped and his heart sank with the sudden realization that it looked like he'd royally screwed up his date.

Opening Blair's door, Jim held out his hand. "It's okay, Chief." He smiled assuredly. "Come on, I have an idea." Taking Blair's arm, he led the way back into the motel room. Once they were inside, Jim said, "Here's what I have in mind. Don't say anything until I'm finished. Okay?" When Blair nodded, he continued, "I want you to pack up your stuff and come and stay with me." Blair was about to speak but Jim held up a finger stopping his flow of words. "Ah-Ah. I'm not finished yet. I have a spare room that you - and Larry," he added with a smile, "are welcome to use. In all honesty, if I had known earlier that you were living in this place, I would have asked you sooner. And you don't have to worry about rent money. You helping me with my senses will be payment enough. What do you think?"

Blair blinked a few times before looking at Jim. "Jim, I can't possibly do this."

"Yes, you can." Jim reached out to tuck an errant curl behind Blair's ear, and Blair felt his heart leap at the intimate gesture. "I want both you and Larry safe. I don't know what I'd do if anything happened to you. I care about you," he said warmly.

Blair watched, mesmerized, as the handsome face descended slowly toward him. When Jim's mouth touched his own in a soft kiss, the intensity of it made him shudder. Closing his eyes, Blair slid his arms around Jim's neck, pressing closer to him. He sighed into the kiss, knowing that this was what he’d wanted since the first time he'd met Jim, but he hadn't realized the depth of his own desire - until now. Blair was about to part his lips to allow the kiss to deepen when Jim gently pulled away. Blair groaned in protest and leaned his forehead against Jim's chest. He waited until his breathing evened out before he raised his head to meet Jim's warm gaze.

"Oh man, how can I say no after that?" Blair grinned when Jim chuckled.

"That's a yes?"

With a nod, Blair said, "You bet."

"Great. Let's get your stuff and get you home."

"Sounds like a plan." Blair paused a minute then asked, "What - um - what about our date?"

Jim looked at Blair with a sensual smile that made his breath quicken. "The night's still young, Chief."

***

"Wow, this is great," Blair said looking around the spacious, tastefully decorated loft.

"The spare room is over here," Jim said with a wave, standing in the open doorway across from the kitchen. "I know it's a little small-"

"It'll be fine." Blair shifted his duffel bag from his right hand to his left while he walked from the living room over to where Jim stood. Peering into the room, he nodded. "This is great. Thank you." Walking into his new room, Blair tossed the duffel on the bed.

"Where do you think the best place would be for Larry's cage?" Jim asked, glancing around the living area.

"I can keep him in the bedroom with me."

"There's not enough room in there. Why don't you put the cage some place out here in the living room where there's a lot more room?"

"You sure?"

"Wouldn't say it if I didn't mean it."

"Okay." Blair walked around the open living space for a few moments before he said, "This is a good area. It's tucked under the stairs, and out of the way. I'll toss an extra blanket over the cage so that when he's in it when nobody's home, he'll be nice and cozy."

"Good idea." Together they set up the folding cage before standing back to examine the placement of Larry's home. "Looks good," Jim said with a pleased smile.

"I'll get Larry." Blair opened the travel crate that he had earlier set on the floor near the kitchen island. Bending down, he peered inside. "Hey, little buddy. Come on out." While Jim looked on, Blair stretched his arm out near the cage's entrance. "He's always a bit skittish at a new place," he explained to Jim before gently coaxing Larry from the cage. Larry finally moved toward the opening and after Blair whispered a few more encouraging words, the ape poked his head outside. His bright eyes darted back and forth as he examined his new surroundings while his tiny hand touched Blair's sleeve. Giving a little squeak, Larry finally scurried up Blair's arm to perch on his shoulder.

Blair reached up and petted the soft fur while crooning softly, "There you go. This is our new home." With Larry firmly attached to his shoulder, he walked around the loft several times to acclimate the little ape to his surroundings. For the final step, Blair carried Larry over to his large cage and set him on his favorite spot, the top of the cage, where he could oversee his new world. Larry scurried back and forth along the top several times before swinging down through the open door. He sniffed his newly-filled water bowl, tasted a piece of lettuce that Blair had put in his food dish before he dropped to the bottom, where he found his favorite red plaid blanket. With a sleepy glance at his owner, Larry buried his body under the blanket, made a few snuffling sounds and promptly fell asleep.

Blair laughed at the little animal's contented demeanor. "I think he approves."

"I'm glad." Jim laughed along with Blair. "Hey, would you like a beer?"

"Sure. Love one." Blair sat down on the sofa and Jim soon joined him, sitting down close enough so that their thighs touched.

"Here you go," Jim said, handing Blair a bottle.

"Thanks, man." He took a long sip before glancing sideways at his friend. "Thanks for doing this, Jim. I really appreciate it."

"No problem, Chief. I'm glad you're here." Blair felt his breathing hitch as those amazing eyes raked over his body and came to rest on his mouth. Self-consciously, Blair ran his tongue over his lips and shivered at the look of arousal that flashed across Jim's eyes.

Placing his beer on the coffee table, Jim plucked Blair's from his fingers, setting it down next to his own. Then Jim turned to him and Blair's mouth was quickly claimed in a passionate kiss. Blair opened his mouth and groaned when a hot, wet tongue slipped inside. Jim tasted hot and spicy, and he reveled at the feel of Jim's tongue as it licked over his lips and the smooth surface of his teeth before venturing to probe deep into his mouth. Blair's tongue moved to meet Jim's and it was his turn to learn the inside of his lover's mouth.

Arms went around Blair's waist, pulling him tight against the strong chest. The heat and strength of his lover sent a shiver of excitement flowing through Blair's body. Wrapping his arms around Jim's neck, his fingers caressed through his short hair. It felt soft and silky, a contrast to the hard warmth at the back of Jim's neck. He broke the kiss, smiling when he heard his Sentinel moan in protest. Kissing a path across Jim's cheek, Blair stopped at his ear, ran his tongue around the rim and whispered, "I'm feeling things for you that I've never before felt for another person. I never thought that I'd…" he paused, realizing that he was about to reveal too much too soon.

Lifting his head away a little, Jim asked gently, "What?"

Blair thought about what he should say, wondering if he should obfuscate but one look into Jim's eyes made him quickly decide against it. He wanted, more than anything, to share with Jim how he truly felt. "I never thought I'd fall in love so quickly."

"You love me?" Jim asked huskily.

Blair looked down, hoping that he hadn't just made a huge mistake, and quickly replied, "I know it probably sounds crazy, we barely even know each other, but it's the way I feel and it feels so damn right."

"It doesn’t sound crazy, Chief." Jim slipped a finger under Blair's chin, tilting his face up until he was looking into his Sentinel's eyes. "I feel the same way."

"You do?" Blair smiled brightly.

"Oh, yeah." Jim answered in a hoarse whisper. His mouth came down on Blair's again, not gently this time, but demanding and possessive.

Slowly, Blair was lowered to the sofa and he moaned in pleasure at the feel of Jim's weight pressing him into the cushions. One arm left his waist to slide between them and begin to undo the buttons on his shirt. A hand crept inside the material to caress Blair's heated skin, his back arching when fingers found and pinched his nipple to hardness. Suddenly, he realized that before things went too far, there was something that he wanted Jim to know.

"Jim," he panted, pushing gently against Jim's broad shoulders. "Wait a sec."

It took a few minutes for Blair's insistent little pushes to finally break through. Jim studied him for a second, then quickly sat up, brushing a hand over his face. "I'm sorry. I'm moving too fast."

"No, Jim, it's not that." Sitting up beside his lover, Blair gave him a reassuring smile and gently caressed his thigh. "It's just - I want you to know something before we go any further."

"What is it?" Jim asked tentatively.

Taking a deep breath, Blair looked into Jim's face and said, "I've never been with another man before. You'd… uh… you'd be my first."

Jim's eyes widened in surprise and he stared intently at Blair for a moment. "I - I don't know what to say."

"You don't have to say anything. I just wanted you to know. "

Reaching up, Jim lightly caressed the side of Blair's face then his fingers tucked some hair behind his ear. "You're amazing, you know that," he said with a loving smile. "But… if things are moving too fast, we can stop."

"No." Blair firmly shook his head. "I want you to show me - teach me - how to make love with a man - how to make love with you."

A low growl rumbled deep from within Jim's chest. He quickly stood up, holding out his hand, his eyes gazing into Blair's with a smoldering intensity.

Wordlessly, Blair slipped his hand into Jim's. Once he was on his feet, he was embraced in strong arms and kissed thoroughly. When the kiss was broken, they smiled at one another and then Jim led Blair up the stairs to the bedroom.

***

Snuggled against his new lover, Blair sighed contentedly. His body felt - incredible. Jim had done things to him he'd never dreamed of. Things that made him blush. Things that made him cry out with pleasure. And things that made him come hard and long. He hoped Jim would do it all over again soon. Very soon. He smiled, pressing his lips to the skin closest to his lips and placing a loving kiss on the warm, slightly salty flesh. Long fingers slid up his back to card through his tangled hair, gently caressing his scalp.

Dreamily, he said, "Jim?"

"Yeah?" Jim replied, his voice husky with sleep.

Raising his head, he waited until Jim opened his eyes to glance down into his. With a mischievous grin, Blair asked, "Hey, man, what about that date you promised me?"

Jim laughed deeply, playfully slapping Blair's bare backside. "The night's still young, Chief. The night's still young."

THE END

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Acknowledgements: Many thanks to my awesome betas for all their help and support! Thank you to Candygram for the lovely cover art.